Give Your Kid the Upper Hand With These IQ Boosting Tips
Most parents already know that good nutrition, protection from nasty toxins, exercise and genetics can all help nurture and improve a child’s intelligence. But is there anything else you can do to help to boost your child’s intelligence?
While manufacturers would like you to believe that expensive, flashy toys will help to improve your child’s intelligence, scientists tend to disagree. Instead, they have useful, surprising insights on how to help your kids reach their full potential.
From fertilization to age 4, the brain does an awful lot of growing. In fact, the brain has actually done most of it’s growing by this point – your child’s brain has reached 90% of its adult size before starting kindergarten.
During this growing period is the best window for learning and developing, but the brain will continue to organize and restructure into early adult life.
However many parents don’t know this and fly into a panic, pushing their children to achieve and succeed in preschool. Sadly, accelerated learning is normally extremely stressful for both the parent and the child. Children tend to have a natural rate that they learn at, forcing learning isn’t beneficial.
So how can you boost the intelligence of children? We look at 4 different studies that have discovered ways that are proven to raise intelligence in children.
1. Longer breastfeeding linked to higher IQ
A recent study has shown that a longer duration of breastfeeding is linked to longer schooling, increased intelligence in adults and higher adult earnings.
The large and extensive study, published in The Lancet Global Health Journal, followed a group of 3500 new-borns for 30 years.
The researchers analyzed the infants, born in Pelotas, Brazil in 1982. Participants were later given an IQ test at the average age of 30. They also provided other information based on income and educational achievements. The researchers then divided the participants into 5 groups based on how long each child was breastfed for.
The study showed that the longer a child was breastfed for, the greater the benefits. For instance, an infant who was breastfed for a full year gained four extra IQ points, had around 0.9 years of further schooling and a higher income per month compared to children who were breastfed for less than a month.
"The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and child intelligence is well established, but whether these effects persist into adulthood is less clear," explains lead author Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta.
"Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability. What is unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class. Previous studies from developed countries have been criticized for failing to disentangle the effect of breastfeeding from that of socioeconomic advantage, but our work addresses this issue for the first time."
According to Dr. Horta, "The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on intelligence is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential for brain development. Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role."
The results are interesting, showing a clear increase in intelligence that correlates to longer breastfeeding. However, as the child is so young the results are not set in stone. As the child grows up this intelligence could be diluted or enhanced by later social and environmental factors.
2. Playing with blocks improves a child’s language development
Many toy manufacturers want you to believe that the best learning toy is new, expensive and flashy. However, a recent study has shown that playing with blocks increases a child’s language development.
The study took place at the University of Washington in Seattle, and researchers divided 200 toddlers from low-income environments into two groups. One group of children received large building blocks to play with immediately, while the second group received blocks six months later, at the end of the test.
The researchers also gave the first group of children some suggestions for “blocktivities” that the toddlers could try, such as sorting by color or size or stacking them. The children kept daily diaries to document what they did when they played with the blocks.
The results are intriguing; six months later, the toddlers who played with blocks scored on average 15% higher in a language test than the toddlers who didn’t have blocks until later.
The toddlers who didn’t have blocks until later scored in the 42nd percentile, putting them at slightly below average. However, the toddlers who did play with blocks scored in the 52nd percentile, putting them at slightly above average and creating a clear, significant difference between the two groups.
The study indicates that playing with blocks encourages and improves language abilities in toddlers in just over a 6 month period of time. A possible theory for why blocks increase language development is the limitlessness of blocks; they allow children to build, create and invent without any boundaries or directions.
3. Climbing trees can improve cognitive skills
A recent study found that climbing a tree and balancing on beams can dramatically improve cognitive skills.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida, is the first to show that activities like climbing trees can benefit Working Memory. Working Memory is the active processing of information, and it benefits performance in many areas such as sports and overall grades.
The study aimed to find out if proprioceptive activities completed over a short timeframe could enhance working memory performance. Proprioception is the awareness of body positioning and orientation.
To do this, researchers tested the working memory of adults aged between 18 and 59. The participants then completed some proprioceptively dynamic activities which included; climbing trees, walking on beams, route planning, running and navigating through obstacles. The participants then retested after two hours.
The findings were impressive. Researchers found that the participant’s working memory capacity had increased by a whopping 50%. These results of the study, led by Drs. Ross Alloway and Tracy Alloway, suggest that working memory improvements can be made after just a few hours of physical exercise.
"Improving working memory can have a beneficial effect on so many areas in our life, and it's exciting to see that proprioceptive activities can enhance it in such a short period of time," said Tracy Alloway.
The researchers also tested two control groups in different environments. One control group was placed in a lecture setting and the other group was placed in a yoga class. This was so that the researchers could find out if learning new information or static proprioceptive activities could improve working memory.
The results showed that neither group experienced any working memory benefits. This may be because the activities were static; the moving around of the other activities placed a bigger demand on working memory because the environment is unknown and changing, requiring working memory to update information.
"This research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies," said Ross Alloway. "This research has wide-ranging implications for everyone from kids to adults. By taking a break to do activities that are unpredictable and require us to consciously adapt our movements, we can boost our working memory to perform better in the classroom and the boardroom."
4. Certain video games can improve strategic thinking
The results of this study will have children everywhere cheering – according to scientists from Queen Mary University of London and University College School, certain types of video games can improve strategic thinking and can increase agility in the brain.
Funnily enough, all 72 of the participants in this study happened to be female. While the study actually wanted male and female participants, they couldn’t recruit enough male volunteers who played video games for less than two hours a week.
The researchers aimed to measure the cognitive flexibility of each person – the individual’s ability to adapt and switch between tasks. The participants were split into three groups and trained to play different games.
Two of the groups played a real-time strategy game called StarCraft, where players construct their own armies to battle an enemy. The third group played simulation game The Sims, which requires less tactical, quick thinking. The participants played the games for 40 hours, which were broken down over six to eight weeks. Before and after playing the games they undertook a series of psychological tests.
The results showed that the groups who had played StarCraft were both quicker and more accurate in performing cognitive flexibility tasks that the group who had played The Sims.
Dr. Brian Glass from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "Previous research has demonstrated that action video games, such as Halo, can speed up decision making but the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes."
"Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved using fun learning tools like gaming."
Before your kids get too excited, though, you may want to tell them that not all video games will improve cognitive ability; it must be fast-paced video games that require tactical and strategic thinking.
5. Can parents make their kids smarter?
As the studies have shown, there are certain activities that parents can encourage their children to do to help to boost their intelligence. But can parenting itself help to boost a child’s IQ?
The controversial topic is frequently discussed by scientists, parents, and teachers. Some research indicates that children’s IQs can be improved with parenting methods, while other research indicates that intelligence is passed down from parents genetically rather than socially.
So which answer is accurate? According to recent research, reading bedtime stories to a child and eating dinner together will positively influence them, but according to recent research, these actions don’t boost their intelligence in adult life.
The study, started by Florida State University criminology professor Kevin Beaver, analyzed teenagers who lived with their parents alongside a sample of adopted children. As adopted children share no DNA with their adoptive parents, this allows the researchers to analyze the genetics without social factors clouding the results.
The youths undertook IQ tests while they were in middle school and high school, and tested again when they between the ages of 18 and 26.
The findings give evidence that supports the argument that IQ is not the result of their parent’s methods of socialization – instead, IQ is genetic.
"Previous research that has detected parenting-related behaviors affect intelligence is perhaps incorrect because it hasn't taken into account genetic transmission," Beaver said.
"In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on child intelligence, but in reality, the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children," Beaver said.
The findings were published in the journal Intelligence.
It appears that parents can help to raise their child’s intelligence by intentionally doing certain things; breastfeeding for a long duration, allowing their children to play fast-paced, strategic games and encouraging them to climb trees.
These activities will help to boost a child’s skills across a range of things – for example, increased IQ, improved cognitive thinking and improved working memory.
However, actual parenting doesn’t seem to alter a child’s intelligence. The best method may be for parents to provide a loving and encouraging home environment while suggesting that the child does activities that can boost intelligence.